When you think of summer, what comes to mind first? Not too long ago, the idea of a trip overseas was a common way to spend the holiday season. Perhaps to Tokyo? London? Rome? While the Covid-19 outbreak has gone on longer than we all thought, it has also enabled us to appreciate and explore the beautiful land we call home. Remix’s founder, Tim Phin shares his experience on his summer getaway to the Bay of Islands in mid-January, illustrating the natural beauty New Zealand has to offer. His three-day trip is outlined in his own perspective and was one to remember, featuring some of the best experiences on offer from the Bay of Islands.
Navigating your way to the Bay of Islands from Auckland, there are plenty of options to consider. Drive, fly, bike, run etc. Ok, perhaps the 14-hour bike ride or 49-hour walk is out of the picture. We decided on the more scenic option of driving, which from Auckland Central to Kerikeri only takes around three hours. To get to Russell, the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand, there are plenty of options such as getting the ferry from Opua (if you have a car) or the ferry from Paihia (passengers only).
More information on ferries can be found here.
The largest town in Northland, Kerikeri offers many attractions that make it a popular tourist destination for locals and foreigners alike. Whilst in Kerikeri, we decided to check out Rainbow Falls and the Kemp House and the Stone Store. Rainbow falls features a picturesque 27-metre waterfall that is a must-see for nature lovers. The walk to the destination is easily accessible and highly enjoyable, making it great for those at any age!
More information on Rainbow Falls can be found here.
Russell - Accommodation at the Donkey Bay Inn
After a short ferry ride from Opua to Okaito, we completed the drive up to Russell. For the duration of our trip, we had the privilege of staying at the Donkey Bay Inn. This boutique hotel looks like a setting straight out of a Wes Anderson film and is tucked away on a private peninsula with views of Long Bay Beach. Designed by Gary Underwood in the early 2000s, what makes Donkey Bay Inn so unique is its bioclimatic architecture. The ‘green roof’ of plants that the inn features helps it seamlessly blend into the surrounding nature. After spending the afternoon settling in and taking in the wide ocean views, it was soon time for dinner at The Grove pop up restaurant.
More information on the Donkey Bay Inn can be found here.
Russell - The Grove pop up restaurant
By the time 7:00 pm came around, everyone was keen for a nourishing dinner. With the help of head chef Ryan Moore and his team, we were served a scrumptious dinner that made use of the Bay of Islands fresh produce. As the Grove is permanently situated in the heart of Auckland, it was like having a piece of home brought with us to Russell, making us feel at home instantly.
More information on The Grove restaurant can be found here.
Russell - The Rogue Pony Escape
After waking up to a leisurely breakfast provided by the lovely staff at the Donkey Bay Inn, it was time to head on for the next adventure. At 10:30 am, we were picked up by the team at Rogue Pony Escape for a morning of cruising around the local scenes in a Ford V8 Mustang convertible! While taking in the breathtaking views, pit stops were made to taste the local wines in the region. Highlights include the Cottle Hill, Ake Ake organic and Marsden Estate winery as well as the beautiful scenic spots such as Haruru Falls. With conversations with Mark, our local driver, the experience was an intimate way to experience the relaxed lifestyle of the Bay of Islands.
More information on the Rogue Pony Escape can be found here.
Russell - The Beaches
Did you know the Bay of Islands features more than 140 subtropical islands clustered together? Because of this, there are plenty of beaches to visit for a range of activities such as kayaking, swimming, beach walks, water skiing and diving. After driving around all morning, we decided to check out the local beaches to cool off. Long Bay beach, near our accommodation, is appropriately named as the long coastline features a 30-minute walk from end to end. The turquoise waters and white sands match the other beaches in the area, such as Paradise Bay - Another must-see for a truly tropical experience!
More information on Long Bay beach can be found here.
Paihia - Charlotte’s Kitchen
A short passenger ferry from Russell to Paihia took us to Charlotte’s Kitchen for dinner come evening. Named after Charlotte Badger, one of the first white women to settle in New Zealand and showcasing artwork from Lester Hall, the selection of fresh market fish and wood-fired pizzas made the food as spectacular as the views from the wharf. Coming back to the Donkey Bay Inn on an evening ferry ride, we finished the evening on an exciting note thus ending the second day in paradise.
More information on Charlotte’s Kitchen can be found here.
Russell - The Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise
As it was our final night staying at Donkey Bay Inn, we checked out and headed down to the Russell wharf for the Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise, sailing around on our own private boat. More than just keeping an eye out for dolphins, whales, orca and other marine animals, our cruise also included a stopover at Urupukapuka Island to Otehei Bay. Just like the beaches in Russell, the white sands from the shore leading up to the top of a hill with views of the whole of the Bay of Islands.
More information on the Fuller’s Great Sites - Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise can be found here.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds
To get in touch with a bit of vital New Zealand history, we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds after our cruise. A place of learning and also beautiful scenery, we found the trip up to Waitangi an essential part of our trip to the Bay of Islands. The two new modern museums Te Rau Aroha and Te Kōngahu Museum of Waitangi are suitable for families wanting to immerse their children in the country's history. There is also a wide selection of traditional Māori performances, carving studios, the Te Whare Rūnanga (Carved Meeting House) and traditional waka taua (war canoes).
More information on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds can be found here.
Russell - The Duke of Marlborough Hotel
Our final night of our trip was spent at none other than the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Founded in 1827, the hotel is the first location in New Zealand to obtain a liquor license and holds a high 4.5-star rating. While the rooms have been renovated since the new owners bought the hotel in 2010, the building still retains its grandeur and historical aura. Staying in the premium rooms meant we had expansive views across the Bay of Islands to Paihia and Waitangi.
More information on the Duke of Marlborough Hotel can be found here.
Russell - The Duke of Marlborough Hotel restaurant
Dinner on our last night at the Bay of Islands certainly did not disappoint. The service was provided by the hotel itself, meaning we could wine and dine as late as we pleased as it was only a short walk back to our rooms afterwards. Not to be missed is the wide selection of seafood on the menu, such as Waikare Inlet oysters, Foveaux Strait crispy calamari and seared octopus. These tasty seafood options are sourced from the surrounding lands, ensuring our dining experience was authentic and fresh.
More information on the Duke of Marlborough Hotel restaurant can be found here.
Tim Phin travelled with assistance from the Bay of Islands Marketing Group. See their website for more information.